‘The Lunchbox’: A flavorful drama, set in Mumbai
A three-star review of “The Lunchbox,” which stars the mesmerizing Irrfan Khan as a widower who strikes up a relationship of sorts with a homemaker whose marriage is fading.
Seattle Times movie critic
‘The Lunchbox,’ with Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Denzil Smith, Bharati Achrekar. Written and directed by Ritesh Batra. 104 minutes. Rated PG-13 for thematic material and smoking. In Hindi with English subtitles. Harvard Exit.
A gentle tale of two strangers who become something more, “The Lunchbox” takes place in contemporary Mumbai, a city whose constant noise, crowds and colors emphasize the miracle of one person ever finding another. Ila (the beautiful Nimrat Kaur) is a homemaker who cooks a hot lunch for her distant, neglectful husband every day, brought to him at the office by the city’s busy lunch-delivery service. But the famously efficient couriers make a rare mistake — and Ila’s tasty lunch gets sent to a lonely widower and near-retiree, Saajan (Irrfan Khan).
Soon, that lunchbox becomes itself a courier, transporting notes between Ila and Saajan and their very different worlds: Ila’s cramped kitchen, where an upstairs neighbor (“Auntie”) shouts cooking suggestions down the fire escape; Saajan’s crowded office, free of computers but piled high with worn-looking ledgers and files. At home, Saajan eats unappetizing-looking food from plastic containers, and gazes wistfully at the family next door. “I don’t know when I became old,” he ponders, in a note; Ila, watching her marriage fade away, writes “What do we live for?”
It’s a slight hook to hang a movie on — this feels like a short story, not a novel — but “The Lunchbox” is nonetheless a pleasure, from the fascinating intricacies of Mumbai-style interlocking lunch containers to the quietly masterful performance of Khan. A star both in his native India and abroad (U.S. audiences recently saw him in “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “Life of Pi”), Khan is one of those rare actors who lets us see him thinking and changing, without a word.
“The Lunchbox” ends on a pleasantly ambiguous note, and a wise reminder: “Sometimes, the wrong train will get you to the right station.”
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org